May 7, 2020 - Sports

May will be the month that live sports come back

Illustration of a sports foam finger as a flower
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While sports are still a long way from resuming normal schedules and staging events in front of thousands of fans, May looks to be the month when we will finally get the chance to watch real live sports on TV again.

Why it matters: For better or worse, sports serve as a barometer of how countries are handling the coronavirus.

  • Bringing them back gives people a sense of comfort, provides hope for brighter days ahead and unleashes some much-needed entertainment out into the world.
  • But doing so too early comes with real risks — and not just for the players, coaches, trainers, referees, stadium employees, media members and other people directly involved. It comes with real risks for everyone.

Competitions:

  • UFC: Fighters return to the octagon this Saturday for UFC 249, which will kick off a series of three events at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. Coverage: ESPN/ESPN+ PPV.
  • Bundesliga: Germany's government has given the green light for the country's top two soccer divisions to return to competition (without fans) as early as May 16.
  • NASCAR: Cars are scheduled to return to the track at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on Sunday, May 17, and NASCAR president Steve Phelps says the reworked season schedule is "99% of the way done."
  • Baseball in Asia: The KBO (Korea) season began on Monday without fans. The CPBL (Taiwan) returned last month — and is now allowing 1,000 fans per game.
  • Horse racing: There was no Kentucky Derby last weekend (moved to September), but Churchill Downs will open May 16 for spectator-less racing. A few other tracks are also open.

Exhibitions:

  • Golf: Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will compete against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a charity match on May 17 at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida. Coverage: NBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel, SkySports.
  • Tennis: Four top 100 players — Tennys Sandgren, Matteo Berrettini, Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul — will face off in a mini-tournament in West Palm Beach, Florida this weekend, with live coverage on the Tennis Channel.

Back at practice:

  • MLS: Several teams returned to training fields yesterday after MLS cleared the start of voluntary individual workouts in line with local public health policies. Players wore masks in the parking lot and temperature checks awaited them before they could step foot on the field.
  • NBA: Players can return to practice facilities starting tomorrow, but only a handful of teams (Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, maybe a few others) plan to make their facilities available. Several others are still weeks away.
  • NFL: In a memo sent to all 32 teams yesterday, commissioner Roger Goodell laid out protocols for the gradual reopening of team facilities. "Phase 1" will begin at some point after May 15.

The bottom line: Nothing is certain in this ever-shifting world, but the No Sports Era appears to be nearing its fateful and surreal conclusion.

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